…is what my modern ‘medicine woman’ asked me over Facebook.
I'd just returned from a trip to NY where I fell ill. My mom, concerned about my lingering cold, wanted to send me to a doctor straight away. There’s just one complication…
I've been ineligible to receive benefits from my mom’s employer provided health insurance coverage since February 18, 2008 – the day I turned 23.I explained that it was “mostly yellow and clear.” And she replied “Green means infection virus contagious, yellow is a cold, and clear is either allergies or jus and imbalance of some sort - mostly your system doing what it needs to cleanse. Get lots of sleep and clear hot fluids. Stay away from dairy it increases mucus!”
She sent over B-complex, and D vitamins, along with some Triphala - to help clean the colon. She says when you get sick, the bug gets stuck in your colon - and subsequently in your blood which contributes to what helps keeps us sick for longer.I spent the weekend close to home drinking tea, having soup, taking my vitamins and lots of water. By Monday I was still a little bit congested, but I've been feeling a whole lot better and eating more thoughtfully since -- doing a little bit more physical activity (basketball on Tuesday nights after my internship), and trying to consume LOTS of water.
As for not having health insurance because I'm 24 -- it’s an inconvenience for sure, especially for someone who, until recently, didn’t know what it meant to live without coverage. Still, I count my blessings. In this economy, I'm lucky to even have a job, much less one that could also offer me some kind of health insurance. But to be honest, for better or for worse, the loss of the safety net has forced me to think about my "health care" differently. I have had to learn to stop acting as I am in some way defenseless against my own body. And I am beginning to realize that my well being is predicated on more than having a defense alone.
"Health Care" Reform vs. "Health Insurance" Reform
While largely billed as a Health Care Reform program, what our President and our nation's pundits have been clamoring about is really health insurance reform. It is important that we recognize the difference. This isn't a bill that is going to magically revamp all health care services, but it will begin to put the reins on the people who play middle[wo]men between health care providers and us, the would-be patients.
This bill has been attached to big ticket issues like our economy and job stimulation because at the root of it all our health care system is a business - with real profits and real losses. And under the existing system, insurance companies have a great deal of control on how that business operates (or doesn't) to serve the needs of patients. For example, while this video explains the benefits of health insurance - pay-in and the pool levels costs, I have to agree with Nick Lee:
"When you have companies that are making $37.8 billion dollars in “total revenue” and there are still millions of people going without health insurance because they can’t afford it then there’s seriously something wrong."
In short, this is about money, not people, and would explain why much of what we hear in policy disputes seem externalized - focused on who gives care, how health care is financed, and how to enable more people to access financing. There's no doubt, the system is broken, but it has been so for a little while now.
Until recently, people who've never been without access have been none the wiser. Growing up I had the luxury of being able to get up and go see a doctor whenever my mother felt it was necessary. The inability to do so now was certainly an odd change of pace, but being sick, while at home, forced me to actually consider my lack of access, and what that means.
In the most basic sense, it means that I am not wealthy enough to be afford-ably cared for. For most people, this lack of health insurance is about a low supply of funds. We are facing a recession, and when you've got immediate needs anything "extra" is reduced to a basic economic question: Do the benefits outweigh the costs? Ultimately I decided that they didn't. I chose to forgo what would have been an out of pocket appointment with a doctor. It seemed like just a cold - not at all worth the unreasonable bill that would come from the five minutes of face time with a doctor I dont know. And let's not forget the cost of a whatever s/he would prescribe or suggest from over the counter. On the same token, am I really in an informed position to decide? I don't have a clue how much a regular doctor's visit would cost.
We take care of illnesss, but what about wellness?
I am grateful for these efforts, and proud of President Obama for igniting the fire on this very important issue. That our current health care economy need be financed by insurance, primarily (or exclusively) should have raised a red flag for more than just a few people and long before the recent past. But I've discovered we exist in what I call it "band-aid culture." It not only undergirds the treatment we give ourselves, and the treatment we receive from professionals, but also the larger system these professionals belong to, and the area in which I seek the most ‘reform.’ We treat the signals that our body gives us when it is finally in distress. We patch things up so that they work sufficiently, even if they don't work to their full capacity. But that system does not ask us to reflect on the behaviors we’ve been engaging in that actually caused our bodies to shut down in the first place.
Most commentary I've read on healthcare primarily stress the importance of access of all people to this system, but few really even examine 1. their own agency in it and 2. whether or not the care they get in that system is worth the access. That’s one tangible I’d like see to come from this reform - a referendum of some sort around the 'true costs' of the care we receive. A reform that only restructures the method of payment for health services, without analyzing the costs themselves seems to miss the point. I'm not opposed to a healthcare exchange, I like the prospect of Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). And I wish I could say that wouldn’t mind paying for a minor visit like this, outright perhaps from my HSA. I’d do just as much to go to a concert or visit an amusement park. I’d also be more inclined to do so at amusement park prices!
Further, I worry that any 'real' reform will be lost on a nation of over-consumers hell bent on doing as they see fit, no matter the known consequences to themselves or others around them. So many take for granted their own responsibility to themselves - to be healthy, let alone any doctor's responsibility to serve you, regardless of your income, if you have a medical emergency.
I empathize with folk who are without because of economic difficulties. I also don't hear much from able bodied folks on what each person is doing to better care for themselves, even while they are without insurance. So, while I find fault with our officials for stumbling with this for so long, I must also express that our collective need to "get-it-together" should also be on the radar. I personally would like to see a reform proposal that extends beyond the insurance model. I envision a program would prioritize a collective effort to encourage and enhance the ability of private citizens to better care for themselves – something akin to what we oft refer to as “preventative care.” I feel like promoting good health rather than just fixing people up, would reduce our reliance on an insurance heavy system in the first place.
Reading the Signals
My cold’s been looming. I kida saw it coming... I mean, any fool knows that limited sleep, and a dearth of proper nourishment, coupled with drastic changes in weather, is a recipe for disaster. But when you have to move as fast as I do, as often as I’ve found myself doing lately, you have the potential lose sight of that in the bigger picture. By the time I began to notice and tried to treat the symptoms the damage had already been done.
While at home, I know I lost myself the familiarity of being at home, doted on and cared for. And for a second, it made me forget that without health insurance I’ve managed colds previously – and alone. That doing so didn’t require much cold medicine, if any at all. What it did require: mostly a combination of hot liquids (tea, soup) and a lot of rest. All of these things I know. They are things the ‘medicine woman’ reminded me, and frankly, they're a popularly recognized as a way to ward off colds! [In Denmark, at the hospital that I visited (for free, courtesy of my student visa) I was met with quite the same advice for symptoms worse than what I was experiencing recently: drink tea, rest and maybe take (the Danish equivalent for) Motrin for the pain.]
Given the US government's track record I can understand why some would think twice about a "public" option - and for a variety of reasons. There's likely some skepticism that rather than act like the "good guy" in this case, this is another opportunity for our government to take advantage of its citizens. Maybe a few more details can soothe the cynic in all of us. Over the last year, I have listened for hours on end as my modern ‘medicine woman’ eplxains to me that by maintaining balance in my daily life - from what I eat to how often I sleep, how much exercise I am getting – my body can healthfully regulate itself. I just have to do my best not to hinder that process. She credits her study of Ma'at, Ayurveda and ancient Kemetic teachings for what she knows about health and our bodies. She's also in amazing shape and health compared to most of our peers.
And as for my doctors? To my recollection, none of them looked as healthy as she, but they all do seemed to have a better sense of how to care for themselves than most people I encounter. Which begs the question "Maybe we're attacking this from the wrong angle? What does this say about "education" and other support systems that should promote good health?"
How well do you take care of your body? Do you have a balanced diet? Do you exercise regularly? What do you want to see come from this health care reform effort? What is your perspective on the importance of having a public option, or not?
For More Information on:
The Full Plan for Health Insurance Reform, HSAs, HRAs
I wanted to finish this in time supposed to submit it for the YM Blog-A-Thon. But since I missed out, here are a few I really liked of those who got theirs in on time.
YM Blog-a-Thon: Private Health Care -- a Public Nightmare (By Nick Lee)
YM Blog-a-Thon: Even when you think you can afford health care you can't (By Grace Garner)
YM Blog-a-Thon: WEALTHCare Reform & Profound Disappointment (By Colin Ehara)
More Videos: StaySmartStayHealthy.com